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Saturday 24.02.2018 | Name days: Diāna, Dina, Dins
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BNN summary of the week: oligarchs in politics, people’s elected president, and Baltic growth

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Business; Decline; Change; Growth; and Opinion.

CHANGE: Legal Affairs Committee supports open election of state president

On Monday, 29 November, the majority of members of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported the initiative proposing open election of the state president by members of the parliament.

Members of To Latvia from the Heart and the Union of Greens and Farmers voted against this initiative.

This makes it one of the possible proposals for amendments to the Constitution to be discussed by a responsible work group. The committee decided to form such a work group to discuss amendments to the Constitution and study the possibilities of gaining the majority of votes in the Saeima.

The work group will include delegated representatives from all factions. It will have to provide its conclusions before the middle of March.

As it is known, Latvian politicians have different opinions about the possibility of electing the state president through an open vote.

Full article here

FIGHT: healthcare funding regulations will not motivate people to pay social tax

Regulations included in the healthcare funding legislative draft will not motivate residents to pay taxes, said representative of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ingrīda Circene in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

She believes a good idea is ruined by a piece of regulation that will make residents pay fees equal to 1% of minimal monthly wages in exchange for full basket of medical services.

As an example, she mentions that statistical data show that the hourly rate of a concrete mixer is EUR 7. To receive a full basket of medical services, a concrete mixes has to work an average of 33 minutes a month.

Circene believes that under a fair tax system, all residents able to work would have to pay social tax from minimal wage. Only under such conditions will it be possible for residents to receive all services included in the medical services basket.

On Thursday, 30 November, the Saeima will discuss the healthcare funding legislative draft developed to improve funding for healthcare and the sector’s longevity.

Healthcare Ministry’s developed draft states that 4% of GDP will be allocated for healthcare in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Bojārs on Diena: «What are you writing there? Lembergs called, cursing and tearing»

«What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing,» said former chief editor of Diena Guntis Bojārs, recalling something Viesturs Koziols once said to him.

During a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee on 27 November, Bojārs said that Aivars Lembergs, Ainārs Šlesers and Andris Šķēle all had a go at manipulating public opinions. He said: «Viesturs Koziols, who owned Diena newspaper shares, called me once to his office and said: ‘What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing’.»

Andrejs Judins asked Bojārs: «My question is this – were there any attempts and desire to manipulate public opinions? How effective that was is a different story.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Reizniece-Ozola applies for Eurogroup president’s post

Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has officially applied for the post of president of Eurogroup, as confirmed by the minister.

The minister submitted her application and motivation letter today. Names of all applicants will be published on 1 December. The vote will take place on Monday, 4 December.

Reizniece-Ozola says she decided to become a candidate because during talks with colleagues from other countries she heard many compliments to Latvia as an example for compliance with fiscal discipline. Also the finance minister is confident that representation in such an important institution would improve Baltic States’ representation on Europe’s political map.

Finance Minister says there are many challenges ahead in the finance field. This includes matters associated with economic and monetary union. «There is a lot left to do,» added Reizniece-Ozola.

She refrained from predicting the possible election results. The minister admits that the decision will likely be made by the largest parties represented in the European Parliament – European People’s Party and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Full article here

DECLINE: Some politicians involved in ‘oligarchs case’ remain active in Latvia’s political life

«Having worked intensely with materials of the oligarchs case, I have come to the conclusion that rumours about state capture attempts in Latvia are true. KNAB has created a very large case that includes materials that confirm suspicions about illegal acts, and also points to intentional abuse of official power by certain politicians,» Saeima deputy Andrejs Judins comments the situation.

The deputy says that it has been found out in the ongoing investigation that not all people whose activities who hold important information were interviewed by KNAB. Investigators did not use all opportunities available to them to gain evidence. State capture is not a term included in the Criminal Law. Nevertheless, it is associated with certain activities that are punishable by law.

He also adds that publication of certain documents does align with public interests. «This case is not just about what happened six years ago – it is also associated with modern state administration,» says Judins.

Full article here

OPINION: democracy cannot exist if the majority stays silent

«76 years ago this day marked one of the biggest tragedies in Latvia’s history, when Jewish residents in Latvia were mass-executed in Rumbula. In commemoration of victims, we must make sure something like that never happens again,» says member of European Parliament Artis Pabriks.

Full article here

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Baltic States ask European Commission to maintain EU Cohesion Fund financially strong

Baltic finance minister ask the European Commission to keep the European Union’s Cohesion Policy financially strong and aim it towards results, BNN was told by Finance Ministry.

Police commence investigation on possible money laundering schemes at ABLV Bank

Latvia’s State Police has commenced an investigation about the possible money laundering operations at ABLV Bank, which were reported by Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) US Department of Treasury.

S&P Global affirms Latvia’s credit rating at «A-»

On Thursday, 22 February, S&P Global reaffirmed Latvia’s credit rating on the «A-» level, retaining a positive outlook for the future, as BNN was informed by the State Treasury.

Kristovskis: state officials should be equally strict to Lembergs and Rimšēvičs

«Lack of consistency – such a conclusion appears after looking at the behaviour of state officials in regards to their request for Ilmārs Rimšēvičs’ to step down as governor of the Bank of Latvia,» says Ventspils City Council member Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

LSRTC: Zaķusala TV Tower’s reconstruction will cost several dozen million euros

According to chairman of Latvia’s State Radio and Television Centre (LSRTC) Jānis Bokta, reconstruction of Zaķusala TV Tower will cost several dozen million euros.

Trade union worried teachers may not have time to prepare for new education content

Teachers may not have enough time to prepare to work with new education content, said manager of Latvian Education and Science Workers' Union Inga Vanaga in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LTV.

Judins, Loskutovs, Čigāne and Dālderis to continue working in Unity’s faction

Saeima members Andrejs Judins, Aleksejs Loskutovs, Lolita Čigāne and Ints Dālderis will continue working in Unity’s faction and coalition.

Saeima supports member’s proposal to publish wages of Bank of Latvia employees

Latvia’s parliament has decided to support Ints Dālderis’ proposal to publish wages paid to employees of the Bank of Latvia, education institutions, as well as municipal capital associations.

More snow expected on weekends; air temperature to drop even more next week

On the night to Friday, 23 February, air temperature in most of Latvia declined to -21° C… -27° C. It was only warmer in Kurzeme and some parts of Vidzeme, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

SEB Bank: more employment options will open up and workers will become more selective

«It is becoming easier to change jobs nowadays. The largest selection of employment options are found in regional centres and cities, especially Riga and Pieriga. We see fewer employment options in regions even though there is still considerable demand for workers there,» predicts SEB Bank’s macroeconomics expert Dainis Gašpuitis.

ABLV Bank’s manager claims the bank is ready for cancellation of payment restrictions

ABLV Bank is ready for cancellation of payment restrictions, said the bank’s chairman Ernests Bernis during a press-conference on Thursday, 22 February.

62.9% of Latvia’s population was employed in 2017

Compared to the year before, in 2017 employment rate grew by 1.3 percentage points and number of employed persons by 1.5 thousand. Employment rate among men grew faster than among women – by 1.6 percentage points and 1.0 percentage points, respectively. 894.8 thousand people or 62.9 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in 2017.

Lithuania and Latvia: the tale between two sisters marked with rivalry

Relations between Lithuania and Latvia, two tight-knit Baltic neighbours, may exemplify a sisterly relationship from the first sight, but just over the course of a single week, several pings rang, signalling that rivalry is, and has always been, a component of coexistence.

Lembergs unable to organize his private life because of intense court proceedings

Lembergs unable to organize his private life because of intense court proceedings

Unemployment level in Latvia decreased to 8.7% in 2017

85.4 thousand people aged 15–74 in Latvia were unemployed in 2017. Compared to 2016, the number of unemployed persons has dropped by 9.9 thousand or 10.4 %.

Council member: ECB is openly dissatisfied with restrictions imposed on Rimšēvičs

The European Central Bank (ECB) is openly dissatisfied with restrictions imposed on one of its council members – governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, said council member of the Bank of Latvia Edvards Kušners in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Defence expenditures in Latvia planned at EUR 234 million in 2018

Latvian government plans to spend EUR 234 million on defence projects, including procurement of transports, ammunition, armaments and individual equipment, in 2018 as confirmed by Defence Ministry.

Ministry cancels mandatory procurement component permits for five CHP plants

Latvia’s Economy Ministry has made a decision to cancel the permit to sell electricity within mandatory procurement component for five other renewable energy co-generation plants plants: SIA Madonas Eko, SIA Eiro-Āzijas investment agency, SIA EVOKEM, SIA M Parks, and SIA Eco Latvis.

NSC proposes Maizītis for a second term as Chief of Constitution Protection Bureau

Members of Latvia’s National Security Council have decided to propose the current head of the Constitution Protection Bureau Jānis Maizītis for another term at the helm of this institution, as BNN was informed by the State President’s Chancellery.

Latvijas gāze’s subsidiary Gaso proposes reducing gas transmission price

Latvijas gāze’s subsidiary Gase has turned to Public Utilities Commission with a proposal for a new natural gas transmission system service’s tariff project, providing for a reducing gas transmission price by 18-46% for more than 95% gas consumers.

FCMC invites Bank of Latvia to provide ABLV Bank with yet another emergency loan

The Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) has invited the Bank of Latvia to issue ABLV Bank another emergency loan.

Crime rate in 2017 was the lowest in Latvia’s history

Last year’s crime rate turned out the lowest in Latvia’s history, as reported by Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers in his annual report.

LEC: government priorities should include searching for causes and solutions, not the guilty

Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LEC) is worried about ongoing events and their negative effect on the stability and future development of the country’s economy. LEC believes that stabilization of the financial situation requires careful coordination of actions between institutions and the government.

Producer price level in Latvia grew 0.9% in January

Compared to December 2017, level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.9 % in January 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market went up by 1.2 % and prices of exported products by 0.6 %.

Latvian President believes country’s financial system is stable; prime minister plans to report to European Council

«Latvia’s financial system is stable, and there is no reason to worry about possible instability of the banking system. Banks continue working as usual,» says the President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis.